Shalom Life | March 29, 2015

EXCLUSIVE: Craig Schatten Makes an 'Alien Assignment'

Schatten discusses his new app that allows young kids to have fun while learning and bonding with their parents.

By: R.S. Bailey

Published: September 17th, 2012 in Culture » Society » Interviews

EXCLUSIVE: Craig Schatten Makes an 'Alien Assignment'

A few years ago, Craig Schatten was pitching an idea for a kid’s TV series to Alice Cahn at the Cartoon Network. The series didn’t go, but a while later she suggested he apply for a fellowship from the Fred Roger’s Foundation. That’s the same Fred Rogers who hosted Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood on PBS. He applied and got the fellowship. The result is Alien Assignment, a free application for iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad which he developed for kids 3 to 5 years old, as a game they can share with grown ups.

Schatten explains, “The Rogers’ Center specializes in teaching parents and kids about media literacy, what makes quality media, and getting parent and kids interacting together around media. They are leaders in the co-play movement in gaming.”

The fellowship gave him some choices about what to pursue. “I knew I wanted to do something with a camera and kids taking pictures.”

Alien Assignment has become a big hit with parents and kids. It allows the child to use the camera function of the iDevice, take a photo, share it with their grown up, who approves the photo, and then go off on the next assignment. It’s a simple, ingenious concept.

The game is based around a friendly, alien family, the Gloops, who have had a forced landing on Earth and need help to repair their spaceship. Glop and Gleep, the son and daughter, are sent out to find supplies to repair the ship. They enlist the help of kids and grown ups by giving clues to help find what they need. The game is meant to be played around the home so the search is for household items.

Craig is animated when he explains how the app works and you can tell this is something he really enjoyed doing. “The concept is the more you interact with your children, the more scaffolding you do and the more they’re going to learn. The goal is to improve literacy.

“Some clues are meant to be open ended; things like ‘something cold,’ ‘something blue,’ ‘something you use when it rains,’ something that ‘turns,’ ‘rolls,’ or ‘points’. Other clues are meant to develop new concepts in vocabulary like ‘Something that holds liquid.’ There are clues like that are meant to be specific like ‘a doorknob’ and ‘a light switch’. They are all designed so all kids can feel success and be involved with their parents. The parents can set the game to search for four to twenty objects.”

When asked what he liked most about the process of developing the application, he doesn’t hesitate in answering. “It was thrilling to be involved with the creative team. I drew character designs and gave them to artists who developed them and did storyboards. I gave a list of 10 songs and musical references I liked to a composer, another fellowship guy, and he did the music. I was the Creative Producing Director. My wife Jennifer and I did the voices for the app in my home studio. I had final say on creative decisions. It was wonderful, the Rogers’ Foundation gave me creative control and a great team.”

When asked why he chose the 3 to 5 year old age group he replied, “I’ve always loved children, even when I was a little, I liked little kids. I always loved watching trusting, innocent, kind kids playing and being imaginative. I was fascinated by how they would communicate with each other and how they were like pieces of a puzzle in their families’ lives. I speak their language.”

Obviously, Craig Schatten is no stranger to communicating with young children. He has a Master’s Degree from NYU in Early Childhood Development and spends a lot of time with 5 year olds. He’s just started his 9th year as a kindergarten teacher at New York’s Calhoun School.

Alien Assignment has been garnering four out of four, and five out of five star reviews from publications and parents alike. Craig points out that you will need wifi to download it in a timely manner. Everything you need to get Alien Assignment for free is available here.

Op-Ed: Lena Dunham’s 'Dog or Jewish Boyfriend' Piece is Thoughtless and Offensive Op-Ed: Lena Dunham’s 'Dog or Jewish Boyfriend' Piece is Thoughtless and Offensive TrendingJames Deen to Play Himself on Showtime's 'Happyish' James Deen to Play Himself on Showtime's 'Happyish' TrendingBen Stiller's Ten Best Film Roles Ben Stiller's Ten Best Film Roles Trending
 

Wales Defeats Israel 3 - 0 in EURO 2016 Qualifiers

March 28, 2015 | By Daniel Koren
Wales Defeats Israel 3 - 0 in EURO 2016 Qualifiers

The blue-and-whites experienced their first loss of the EURO 2016 qualifying matches at home in Haifa

Read More

Op-Ed: Obama, not Netanyahu, is Killing the Two-State Solution

March 27, 2015 | By Ben Cohen, JNS.org
Op-Ed: Obama, not Netanyahu, is Killing the Two-State Solution

The U.S. President has never really empathized with the emotions that govern Israeli perceptions of the wider region

Read More

Op-Ed: Lena Dunham’s 'Dog or Jewish Boyfriend' Piece is Thoughtless and Offensive

March 27, 2015 | By Caitlin Marceau
Op-Ed: Lena Dunham’s 'Dog or Jewish Boyfriend' Piece is Thoughtless and Offensive

In her latest literary endeavour, 'Girls' star Dunham tries to come across as funny by comparing her boyfriend to a dog; she doesn't

Read More

James Deen to Play Himself on Showtime's 'Happyish'

March 27, 2015 | By Daniel Koren
James Deen to Play Himself on Showtime's 'Happyish'

The prolific Jewish porn star will appear in a cameo on the new show out on April 26th

Read More

Woman Exposes Herself To Minors At Arizona Bar Mitzvah

March 27, 2015 | By Caitlin Marceau
Woman Exposes Herself To Minors At Arizona Bar Mitzvah

Lindsey Radomski is being charged by police after allegedly exposing herself to, and performing oral sex on, minors at a Bar Mitzvah this past Saturday

Read More

Association Assisting Holocaust Survivors Needs Your Help To Make Their Passover Seder Possible

March 27, 2015 | By Caitlin Marceau
Association Assisting Holocaust Survivors Needs Your Help To Make Their Passover Seder Possible

The group, which holds an annual Passover Seder, is in danger of having to cancel their event due to the lack of funds needed to help the 450+ survivors who, without them, will be celebrating alone this year

Read More

Shortly Before they Died in Brooklyn Fire, the Sassoon Children Recorded This Emotional Song [VIDEO]

March 27, 2015 | By Tali Farkash & Liron Nagler-Cohen
Shortly Before they Died in Brooklyn Fire, the Sassoon Children Recorded This Emotional Song [VIDEO]

Song is their own version of Hasidic singer Yaakov Shwekey's hit "Cry No More"

Read More

Facebook Integrates Israeli App into Messenger

March 26, 2015 | By NoCamels Team
Facebook Integrates Israeli App into Messenger

Social media giant incorporates Magisto, an app that turns photos and videos into a short animated film

Read More

More Headlines